Performers: Kathy Maniura and Derek Mitchell Show: Horseplay: Bareback Venue Underbelly Cowgate Time: 10.30pm Dates: 4th to 28th August (not 16th) Photographer: Skye Baker
Tell me about your 2022 Edinburgh Festival Fringe show, Bareback.
So Bareback is a very absurd, character driven narrative show set in an afterlife where sex and performance are banned. This afterlife, called ‘The Grid,’ is powered by the electricity generated by all the emotional runoff of people in the land of the living. The problem is, when people in the afterlife do any kind of performance, anything sexual, The Grid is overloaded, causing it to short-circuit.
For thousands of years, The Grid’s been hanging on by a thread. It’s run by a frenetic young Scandinavian woman, and an overworked and under-appreciated talking anus and vagina keep the whole thing afloat. Then one day, a celebrity sex therapist arrives, hell-bent on shaking the whole place up…
The show’s one big kaleidoscope of characters. It’s got musical numbers, it’s got thigh-high stilettos and it’s got oodles and oodles of wigs.
How tricky is it writing a show together over Zoom?
We quickly became quite good at reading one another’s faces over Zoom for approval and disdain, and also existential dread. Kidding (kind of). Hot take alert: the pandemic really messed things up for a while there! So, we actually found the ritual of writing everyday massively grounding, through all the chaos and uncertainty. We ended up rewriting the show about a million times, so a lot of what we wrote was, in a strict sense, terrible. But I think the stripped-down nature of the process, and the fact there were no deadlines and no certainty we’d ever even be able to perform the show meant we approached the writing process with a granular attention to detail.
How did the two of you meet and how and when did you decide to work together?
We actually met doing sketch comedy at uni! It was this wonderful space to experiment and figure out who we are as writers and performers, without the stakes being very high. We definitely already gravitated then towards character as a primary way to make one another laugh. And through the years, we have occasionally made others laugh as well.
Initially we were cast in a big sketch comedy revue, and through the years all the other members have gone their separate ways (though many are still great friends!). In a sense, we are simply the last two remaining members of what was once a much larger group of comedians. Over time the two of us have developed individually and together as performers and writers. We’ve done many, many gigs in dank dusty basements to crowds of one. Through it all we’ve ridden every high and low together. It’s just a shame we truly cannot stand one another!
How hard was it to get back on stage post lockdown?
There was definitely a bit of adjustment required to find our rhythm and get back into the swing of things. But all in all, it’s been a pure joy. And the ability to perform for audiences is definitely not something we’ll ever take for granted again. The inability to perform, get out there and mix it up with other comedians was an especially challenging part of The Pandemic Experience. For us, making comedy and interacting with audiences and other artists alike is one of the greatest joys in the world. And for a couple years it left a big hole in our lives that we simply couldn’t wait to fill again.
Finally, ask and answer a question of your own.
What are some of your top tips when it comes to selecting comedy wigs?
Honestly, really wonderful question, thanks for asking! So the first thing to know about wig selection if you’re NOT going for stunning beauty, is that most wigs are made to serve stunning beauty. So you’re gonna need to keep your eyes peeled, okay?
Now, let’s say you’re a millionaire. Then you should hire someone to build all your wigs for you. We are not only millionaires but billionaires – so this is absolutely how we do it. But for the sake of this interview, we’ll pretend that we buy wigs online (though we’d love to be able to buy a really nice one at a local shop someday).
When shopping for wigs online, you should look for a cut and style that will make you look pretty strange. Something that will make your silhouette asymmetrical. Get something that screams ‘I’m from a different historical period,’ or even, ‘I have a terrible secret, do you have a good hiding spot for this knife?’
Let the character emerge from the wig. Let your wig tell her own story. When styling, use industrial strength hair spray (and don’t skimp – bad hairspray will literally destroy synthetic wigs). Approach every wig like you would a wealthy family member you’re hoping will leave you an inheritance: with caution, wonder and enthusiasm. You must simply let them tell their story!
Tickets: Horseplay: Bareback